Question: How many appointments or conversations per day or per week should a salesperson make in order to be successful?

Answer: I have no idea. How’s that for an answer that you’re not expecting?

OK, you know by now that doesn’t mean I don’t have anything to say to this point. Let me explain my first statement. I have no idea because I don’t know the specifics of your selling situation. The definition of a reasonable number of appointments varies tremendously from one situation to another. For example, I have worked with phone salespeople who are expected to have 60 to 80 conversations per day. On the other hand, in one of my personal selling situations, I regularly spent a half day with one customer, and that one account probably bought more from me than several hundred of the phone sales accounts.

That really gets to the heart of the issue. The factor that most determines a reasonable number of appointments is the potential dollar value of the sale. Generally, the larger the potential dollar value of the sale, the fewer calls should be made. That’s because the nature of the sale requires more in-depth relationships and more involved sales dialogues. Each sales call is more complex, and takes longer. Therefore, you can’t make as many.

On the other hand, the smaller the potential dollar value of the sale, the more calls should be made. The phone salespeople, for example, were selling safety videos for about $100 each. Because of the relatively small order size, they would need to make many times the number of sales calls that I did. I was selling hospital supplies via 12-month contracts. A typical deal would be worth $20,000 to $60,000.

So, the first thing to consider as you strive to develop some quantifiable expectations is the potential dollar value of the sale.

The second thing is a variation of that. In order to be profitable to the company, each salesperson’s total costs must fall within a certain range. We’ve done extensive research on this, and I can give you a broad rule-of thumb.

I believe that, generally speaking, a salesperson’s total cost to the company should not exceed 25 percent of the total gross profit produced by that salesperson. For example, let’s say that you have a sales person who makes $50,000. When you add in the cost of expenses, fringes and taxes, the salesperson actually costs you $68,000. So, if you use the 25 percent rule-of-thumb, that salesperson should bring in at least $272,000 in gross profit in order to be profitable to you.

By the way, if you’d like to dig into this issue more deeply, go to my website, click on the Free Resources link, and then click on the button that offers a free download of “How to Kreate Kahle’s Kalculation.” That will get you a free PDF that describes this calculation in detail.

Armed with this calculation, the next question is, “How many sales calls does this salesperson need to make in order to generate $272,000 of gross profit?” That will help shed some light on the subject. One caveat – the 25 percent figure really is a very broad rule-of-thumb. For jan/san distributors, I advocate a much smaller number, like 13 to 17 percent.

Another thing to consider is past history. If you’ve been in business for a while, you should have some sense of how many calls or appointments it takes to be successful. If you haven’t tracked that number, it may be a good exercise to track it for all your reps for a couple of months, and then to use that as a guideline.

Having said all of that, let me say one more thing. I don’t think the number of calls is an important issue for most salespeople. It does have some application for a new salesperson, to guide that person to an appropriate level of activity. Also, if you are introducing a new product or product line, it is appropriate to track the number of calls made for that product.

After that, however, there are other measurements that are more important such as the quantity and quality of sales opportunities unearthed. In other words, if your salesperson can uncover $1,000,000 worth of viable sales opportunities in five calls a week, more power to him. If another makes 25 calls to uncover the $1,000,000, so be it.

Figure out what is a viable quantity and quality of opportunities per salesperson and track those. It’s closer to the mark than calls. The number of calls measures the amount of raw activity in which your salespeople engage. The quantity and quality of sales opportunities measures a more significant thing — the amount of worthwhile activities in which your salespeople engage.

Dave Kahle is one of the world’s leading sales educators. He’s written nine books, presented in 47 states and eight countries, and has helped enrich tens of thousands of sales people and transform hundreds of sales organizations. Sign up for his free weekly Ezine. His classic book, "How to Excel at Distributor Sales," is the largest selling book ever written for distributor salespeople.

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